Figure The Afroasiatic Language Family

The major branches of the Afroasiatic language family. Arabic is now spoken in the area shown as belonging to Ancient Egyptian. Though Greenberg's classification of African languages is now broadly accepted, it was for many years bitterly resisted by British Africanists. In linguistics as in other academic fields, specialists tend to resent the generalist who shows how their little patch relates to a larger order. Paul Newman, a linguist at Indiana University, recalls visiting the London School of Oriental and African Studies around 1970, some 15 years after the first publication of Greenberg's African work. He was told that it was quite safe for him to go into the common room, as long as he did not mention Greenberg's name.275

After his African classification, Greenberg turned his attention to the question of American Indian languages. Taking note of the archaeological findings that the Americas had been settled only recently, Greenberg expected to find far fewer language families than in Africa. But American linguists, then undergoing a splittist phase, had agreed at a conference in 1976 that no fewer than 63 independent language families were spoken in the Americas. Greenberg, using the same mass comparison method he had developed for Africa, announced there were just three—Amerind, Na-Dene and Eskimo-Aleut.276 Greenberg's conclusions induced the same agitation among American linguists as his African classification had among the British. And even though American linguists had generally accepted his grouping of African languages, they now assailed him with a fury that startled the population geneticists who were beginning to take an interest in his work. Luca Cavalli-Sforza, an eminent geneticist at Stanford University, wrote of his

Was this article helpful?

0 0
The Power Of Charisma

The Power Of Charisma

You knowthere's something about you I like. I can't put my finger on it and it's not just the fact that you will download this ebook but there's something about you that makes you attractive.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment